Ethics: Business Bribes

What would you do Wednesday!

The scenario is that you work for an international company that works, directly and indirectly, on projects with governments in the Middle East. You the leader on a team for a project that is about to begin.

The contract is with a local Middle East government in which several officials are involved. The contract is huge with revenues projected to be millions of dollars. And you are excited since the bidding, negotiations, contract, etc. are complete.

Or so you thought.

The last step in securing the contract is that several government officials must receive good will offerings. These offerings are extra payments sent directly to each official’s personal account.

This practice is common in this Middle Eastern company, but in America is considered a bribe and is illegal. However, since it is so common many companies have found ways of paying these bribes. And you have a better chance winning the lottery than ever being caught.

As the team leader, you can refuse the bribes and risk losing the business. Or, you can go forward and pay the bribes which would give you the contract, a monetary bonus and a potential a move up in the company.

What do you do?

Let's connect!

tagged as , in morality,theology

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jack Marshall August 26, 2010 at 11:17 am

You shouldn’t have to ask.
It’s unethical, and violates the US. Corrupt Foreign Practices Act, which specifically prohibits this conduct.

Whether or not you can get away with it is 100% irrelevant, ethically and legally. If you can get away with murder, does that make it OK?

Of course not. I’m assuming, therefore, that you’re asking this question to flush out the crooks and cheats out there, and not because you really don’t know the answer.

I hope.

2 Russ August 26, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Thankfully God is a little more merciful than Jack (or at least Jack’s comment above). I know I am crooked and have cheated others and thank The Lord he has forgiven me for it. It is very easy to look down from our “comment thrones” and pass judgement on others, but taken to the real world this could be a real issue when livelihoods and feeding families will be affected by a decision like this. But at the end of the day, yes, the right thing is to refuse the unethical and illegal bribe. I am sure this is much easier said than done, but we should trust The Lord shouldn’t we?

And I am sure Mark really knows the answer.

3 Jack Marshall August 26, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Cop out.
Ah, the old, “feeding the children” rationalization. Break whatever rules, laws or principles you need to to “get yours,’ then become contrite in time to get to heaven. Good scam!This is exactly the way the millionaires who wrecked the US financial system with bogus deals justified their cheating ways, too; it’s the way all crooks and cheats justify taking money out of the hands of strangers who play by the rules to “feed their families,” usually caviar. In the real world, people don’t break laws and rules because it’s wrong, and they have resolved never to do it, just like they would never murder, or rob a bank, or commit incest. It’s not a hard “real world” decision at all, because if one cares about right and wrong and doesn’t believe in inflicting harm ob strangers, it’s not a decision at all. How hard is it to say, I’m not going to cheat, because it’s unfair, and I wouldn’t want someone to cheat me. How I love it when someone invokes God, but appears to be wholly unfamiliar with the Golden Rule!

4 Mark August 26, 2010 at 10:44 pm

Well Jack, if I shouldn’t have to ask then you shouldn’t have to answer. 🙂 I didn’t have to ask. I try to post an ethics question on Wednesday. As Russ stated, it can be easier to say the right thing than to do it.

I wouldn’t be surprised if people let issues of a smaller scale pass for their benefit without much thought even though it would be wrong.

5 Mark August 26, 2010 at 10:49 pm


Who is rationalizing breaking the law? Also, not that I agree, but who would be harmed by paying the bribe in the above scenario, especially, if it is acceptable in another country?

6 Jack Marshall August 27, 2010 at 12:23 am

Who is harmed in bribery? Come on! How about the deserving parties who can’t pay the bribes? How about the organization—like the government—that get its contractors chosen according to who pays what to who, rather than the best interest of the public, which would require that the most qualified, most skilled, best priced contractor wins the job? Bribery substitutes financial means and secret dealings for transparency, merit and fairness. Everybody is harmed, except the guy that gets the money he hasn’t earned, and the company that gets the job it doesn’t deserve.

7 NFQ August 27, 2010 at 2:20 am

What’s the moral difference between giving these government officials bribe money, and giving the government a discount on the price they’d pay your company and then that government giving bonuses to the officials involved? It seems to me that in cultures where bribes are considered conventional, they’re not really that different from tipping your waiter. I mean, sure, the restaurant *could* just raise the cost of their dishes slightly, but that doesn’t mean it’s immoral to leave a couple dollars on the table.

8 Jeff October 5, 2010 at 11:54 am

It says in America it would be considered bribery. The key to me is that you are not doing business in America you are in the middle east. If this work was being done in America then yes it is bribery and wrong. We have to look at different customs and practices of the host nation we will be working in. In my time overseas I have had to deal with many different customs from eating goat meat and dog ( a delicacy in Korea) to giving a village elder something of mine such as a watch or sunglasses to show that I am sincere in my dealing with him and his people. You can refuse to do the deal but you are also putting others at risk, if you refuse the deal then your company may lose millions, which could result in jobs being lost, which results in unemployed and uninsured coworkers and their families then suffer. That may seem a bit extreme but it could happen.


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